Getting healthy and slim eating like the French!

20131120-172606.jpgI won a lovely box of French food from a fellow blogger Britishette. The box came from Bonjour French food and contained amongst other things a gorgeous, velvety black tapenade that we have already been enjoying with some oat biscuits! The biscuits that came with the box we munched through far too quickly, not a very French way of eating but hey! The Tomatine seems perfect for creating some bite sized starters or as a base for a sandwich and the salted butter caramel apple sauce is so yummy that I could eat it all in one go! The rest will be a perfect surprise treat for this weekend! You can check out the company here, they have a deal at the moment, buy 3 months get the 4th for free.

Now, you might ask, how can I write about French food since I’m all about healthy eating? Not all french food is unhealthy but I’m thinking Rillettes, Pâté, boeuf bourguignon, croissants, baguettes, cheese and wine…..oh the cheese and the wine!

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But I believe the French must be doing something right when it comes to healthy eating since they have one of the lowest obesity and heart disease rates in Europe despite their rich food. The weirdness of this fact is called the French paradox and scientists have been trying to figure out how this can be for decades. The possible answers are many;

The French eat very small portions….even if you have a 7 course meal you won’t feel stuffed. A French friend of mine told me that one of their courses is called “un amuse-bouche”, which is basically one single bite (imagine serving that in the US, UK or Sweden…..)

Another really important aspect of how the French eat is that they have a healthy attitude to food. Food is a pleasure, and something to enjoy and to be enjoyed with other people. It’s not either feeling guilty or good over the fact that you ate or stayed away from fattening bad food. Here’s a really interesting article by Karen LeBillion called “why French kids don’t get fat”. Here she mentions a study that was done about the difference in attitude towards food between the Americans and the French. They showed pictures of a cake and the first words the French said was “celebration” and “pleasure”. The Americans said “guilt” and “calories”. I would probably respond more like the Americans.

The French go for quality rather than quantity. If it’s not good food they won’t eat it ( however obesity rates are going up and there are suggestions this is linked to the rise in popularity of fast food)

They also sit down and eat their meals and NOT in front of the telly. The same French friend that I mentioned before said once that if her kids doesn’t sleep during the day she can’t eat lunch. At that moment I didn’t understand what she meant since I tend to throw whatever I can find into myself whilst making lunch for the kids. But after reading about how the French eat, I now understand. And from now on I will only eat when I can sit down and enjoy my food!

They have a glass of red wine with their meal (ONE glass not 3) and then they put away the bottle! One glass of red wine a day may be reducing the risk for heart disease. Read more at the mayo clinic. But the good benefits are only valid if you drink 1 glass ( for women) or 2 ( for men)
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I certainly believe the French have a very healthy attitude to food, however having been brought up in a country where the attitude is not quite the same, how can I incorporate the French way in my way of eating?

One thing I have started to do is if I go somewhere where I can’t decide the food, dinner party for example, I eat anything that’s being served but I tend to eat more of the healthy stuff and less of the not so healthy stuff. If I have something nutritionally bad I have a small piece, truly enjoy it and then that’s it. I don’t need to go for seconds. Listen to my body and only eat until I’m almost full. ( I need to work on this one though)

Eat anything I want but treat the treats as treats. I’m certainly not a fan of diets excluding food groups, not a fan of diets at all but certainly not the ones where you have to exclude foods. (Apart from if you have a medical problem or for a period of time when you are doing a cleanse) Not being allowed to eat certain things takes away the enjoyment of food hence making it very difficult to sustain for life. And sustaining healthy eating for the rest of your life is the way to go.
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The one glass of red wine is a tricky one. In Sweden we had a system called “motboken” between 1917-1955 where one could only buy a certain amount of alcohol in an attempt to get us to drink less. I think the system backfired because most Swedes do not have a healthy attitude to alcohol. Having a daily glass of wine with your food isn’t really the thing to do but when there’s a party or a social gathering there’s snaps (shots of strong spirits) and quite a lot of alcohol being consumed. And all the benefits of the red wine are gone out the window. Things might be slightly different now, Remember I haven’t been living in Sweden for quite some time. Not that UK is any better when it comes to drinking. One in four adults are binge drinkers!

So lots of things for me to work on! If I can adjust my attitude to food and alcohol now my kids will have a better chance of growing up with a healthy attitude to food and alcohol!

What are your thoughts about how the French eat? Do you believe they are eating the right way?

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